ABC News(MANCHESTER, N.H.) — As the final days before the New Hampshire primary heat up, Former Vice President Joe Biden casts himself as an underdog, while continuing to draw a sharp contrast with two of his main rivals for the Democratic nomination: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Biden told ABC News following Friday night’s Democratic debate — hosted by ABC News and partners at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire — that the night was not a “do or die” moment for the campaign. He again lowered expectations for his performance in the state’s primary next week.
“In New Hampshire I’m an underdog because of the fact that you know, Bernie [Sanders] won this place by 20 points last time,” Biden told ABC News. “The neighboring senators have gigantic influence. And so I think I’m an underdog.”
The former vice president is coming off a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses, placing a distant fourth behind Sanders, Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“This is a long, a long race. I took a hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take a hit here,” Biden said on the debate stage Friday night.
The candidate and his team insist that reading too much into the results in the first two states ignores the fact that Biden is much better positioned to win states with more diverse electorates like Nevada and South Carolina.
“We know it’s gonna be a fight. We know it might be an uphill battle. But the reality is, we are still in this race,” Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for Biden’s campaign, told reporters in the spin room post-debate. “The reality is that we have said from the beginning that you should view these first four nominating contests as a package, which means Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and yes, South Carolina,”
While on stage, Biden continued to warn that both Sanders and Buttigieg have significant liabilities that will render them unable to defeat President Donald Trump in a general election.
He said he didn’t raise his hand when the candidates on stage were asked if they had concerns about the party nominating a Democratic Socialist because he didn’t want to “pile on” and felt he had already made his point previously.
“Bernie’s labeled himself, not me, a ‘Democratic Socialist.’ I think that’s the label the president’s gonna lay on everyone running with Bernie if he’s the nominee,” Biden said, later adding “This is going to be a field day for the president.”
He added that while Buttigieg is a “great guy” and a “real patriot,” his experience level and ability to garner support from minority groups is still lacking.
“He’s a mayor of a small city who has done some good things but has not demonstrated he has the ability to — and we’ll soon find out — to get a broad scope of support across the spectrum including African-Americans and Latinos,” Biden said of the 38-year-old former mayor, who emerged in a dead heat with Sanders in Iowa.
But he also warned against assuming minority voters would turn out for Democrats.
“Look, the black community knows me and I know them. And I think we take it for granted much too much,” he said, adding “my biggest concern about the African American community with the Democrats is: most of it was taken for granted. They just take it for granted that they’re going to show up.”
Following Friday’s debate, Biden is taking a more aggressive approach on the campaign trail in the Granite State, adding additional campaign events and public appearances as he tries to stave off another disappointing finish that could further derail his candidacy.
“Well … expect me to be knocking on doors going all across up and down the state until election day. I’m not leaving here.” Biden said. “They’re going to get tired of seeing me.”
Despite freezing temperature and biting winds, Biden was out Saturday morning handing out bread at the “Food for Children” food bank in Manchester, an organization that hands out food to those in need every week.
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